Ben'hamin Ch. 08byNymzanSusauren©
It was opened by the slaver. He was dressed in a towel and held one in his hand. "My apologies, I have called you out of your bath...I was hoping to talk with you about your last visit."
Pudgy nodded letting him inside without hesitation. "Ahmi...bring the king a drink," he said sharply.
A boy rattled the dishes harshly and carefully poured a glass. It was not filled to the top. It would have spilled before he could have brought it if it had been filled any more. The boy was shaking like a tree sapling in a stout wind!
Everest took the cup and sat down in a companionable dining area. "You were with my wife. Someone said she was bleeding before you...had sex with her." He shifted in the chair uncomfortably. "Was she?"
"It was only a few small smears. She said she was not hurting, but yes...she was bleeding. I didn't know at the time that she was being ridden like the village whore, or I would have been far more concerned, my lord."
Pudgy's tone was derisive. Even being completely polite, he managed to convey where he thought the blame should be placed...on Everest's head. The slaver cocked his head at the king deciding to just simply say what was on him mind. "Why did you offer every one of your business partners a go at her that day?"
"Did I? I don't know. I don't remember why I hurt her, or even if I meant to do it."
"You appeared to be in a very good mood, but slightly malicious towards her. Were you angry at her for something?"
"Maybe..." Everest tried to read him and sat up straighter with a look of alarm. "You are psychic!"
"You knew that before you came to my room," the man chided him gently. "For shame, my king, have you already forgotten my name? I am curious when you figured it out. You couldn't read me the last time, and yet you were simply puzzled about it. This time, you just knew..."
"Yes, it is strange, I would imagine," Everest stated with a small wry smile. "If you knew she was injured, why didn't you stop?" He couldn't help asking. It was the entire reason he was sitting here. The slaver stared at him solemnly.
"That is my business. Your business is why you allowed it to go on for so long. She is your wife. She is the nation's queen. If you are tired of being a king, just leave her."
"Tired of being a king..." Everest sighed thoughtfully. "Is that really what you think it was? I tried to kill her because she angered me, and I was tired of being a king..."
"It was my impression at the time." The slaver frowned. "I have been watching you since I returned. You feel very concerned for her. Also, very fond of her," he added sounding rather unamused. "Has her near death changed you so much, my king?"
"It must have," Everest shrugged vaguely. "We got along great when I met her. I adored Destiny with all of my heart. She was very sweet, very loving, and very fun when she was smiling. So pretty, both inside and out," he stated with a long sigh. "I am wondering if she is still that sweet girl I married so long ago."
"I am wondering," the slaver stated carefully, "how a person could be after the way you treated her. I have been asking around, too, my king. The people say what I saw when I was last here is an everyday occurance. That day alone it got out of hand and a bit more extreme than usual, but it was common."
"Yeah, I am getting that by now. It was all my fault..." Everest got up pacing the floor like a caged tiger.
"You are restless. You do not like being kept contained."
"I have never liked it," Everest agreed. "I feel like this castle is suffocating me."
"Then, go outside," the fat slaver told him firmly.
"I cannot! I have to have a whole legion of guards when I leave." Everest growled in irritation noticing when he did that the little slave boy shrank further into the corner he was hiding in. "I am scaring your lad," he pointed out in frustration.
"He is always scared," the slaver waved it aside as inconsequential. "Come, my lord, this room is not big enough for your restless soul." The pudgy male stood up very slowly. "Ahmi, bring me my clothes."
The boy shot off of the floor and flew over to a small chest. Ahmi drew forth dark black cloth and leather.
Pudgy dropped the towel clearly not the least bit embarrassed by his short physic or overly large paunch.
The boy dropped the pile at the slaver's feet and began to wrap a silky, black, skirt wrapper around his waist for him. It was barely large enough to fit him. Ahmi tied it in place carefully.
The slaver sat back down letting the boy have one of his legs. The material Ahmi pulled over his muscular calves to his fat thighs was styled in an unusual fashion. It was tied up almost to the length of the wrapper hiding his legs from view.
Then, a suede short boot was tied tightly over the leggings.
When both legs were properly covered, he stood up again. Ahmi pulled a sleeveless shirt over his head and straightened what was left of the slaver's hair over it.
"Thank you, boy," the slaver sighed. "You know I can't leave you here alone, so grab your cloak." Ahmi hesitated before he went back to the chest for the thick, brown thing. "I am not taking a chance with this one."
Ahmi and the slaver escorted Everest out. They went down the hallway and several long, twisting corridors. Everest began to chuckle softly until they both looked at him with quizzical expressions. "Are you trying to get me lost within my own realm? This is my castle and you know it better than I do," the king told them in mirth.
"No, is it working?" The slaver sounded equally amused by the suggestion. He motioned to a guarded set of stairs. "Here we are...after you, your majesty." Everest paced up them quickly smelling the fresh air, even before he came out on a stone balcony hundreds of feet wide. He breathed deeply beginning to relax.
The king paced around the balcony finding it continued on in smaller sections endlessly around the castle's exterior. Satisfied with it, he turned to regard the other man in pleased contentment. "Thank you," Everest said to him. "Can I ask you something else? Can you tell me about the slave that escaped from you?"
Everest knew he saw a sudden hesitancy in the little, fat man's demeanor, and a swift, worried glance from the tiny slave boy that quickly swung to his master. "What do you want to know about him? A brief description..." The slaver appeared completely calm and curiously patient.
The king gave them a slow and thoughtful nod. "I only saw him in a cloak, much the same as your boy. A description would help us be on the lookout for him. I already know he is immune to being read by psychics."
"Yes, he is psychic, too," the short man agreed glumly. "It makes for a devil of a time trying to nab him when he sees you coming."
"I bet..." The king rested on the high, wide stone parapet looking out over endless miles of ocean and rolling blue-green hills. It was peaceful and made him want to simply jump over the rail and be gone from this stone enclosure.
"He is fairly tall," the short slave trader mumbled thoughtfully.
Everest laughed looking back at him to tease, "To you everyone is probably tall."
"Oh, yes, well then...His is about your height, maybe larger..." The slaver grinned at his good-natured comment. He grumbled thinking of the right thing to say. "He is pretty big, too. About three of you, I would think. You would not want to mess with the likes of him."
"I did not intend to mess with him if I can avoid it. I just want to be able to recognize him if I see him," Everest assured him casually.
"Well, he is not a hard one to miss. He has coppery-tan skin with long, black hair and eyes. Usually, he has a rather surly expression on him, too," the slaver added.
"No," someone hissed at him angrily. It startled both of them and they looked around to see who could have said it.
"Ahmi," the pudgy male asked curiously, "do you have something you would like to add to my description?"
"Sad..." The slaver looked like he had suddenly swallowed something foul.
"I suppose he is sad...Either way, it doesn't put him in a really good mood," the slave trader growled sourly.
Except for the foul temperament, Everest thought sadly, it sounded like Andy. What had happened? Everest remembered taking him across the ocean. Once Andy had woken up, he had not mentioned what had been done to him, but Everest knew by his attitude that it had not been pleasant.
That was to be expected, but why had he returned after all of this time? Andy knew better than that. Destiny would not leave with him, not then and not now.
Poor Andy, Everest thought irritably. He had been so much fun to be around once. Always smiling, always friendly...Everest had really liked him. Destiny accused him of murdering the man. Right in front of her face, on purpose so she would see it. Is that what had happened?
How could he have survived such a thing if he had? Of course, Destiny had no reason to lie. It must be the truth. Everest rubbed his face upset by the idea. Andy had been his friend back then, but he rather doubted that was still true.
Everest looked back at the foul creature that had recently held the slave's leash as an irrational anger grew within his breast. "I doubt you will catch him anytime soon, will you?"
"Highly unlikely," the pudgy, short man stated slowly. "He was very hard to catch the first time."
Good, Everest thought in relief. Only a part of him was dismayed, he realized. What would he do if Andy was mad at him? Andy had not attacked the last time, but that did not mean he wouldn't do it now.
"Excuse me, but could you leave me alone for a while?" Everest turned catching a puzzled look on the fat, little face behind him. "I think I might take your advice. Disappear for only a little bit, if you won't tell anyone about it."
The slave trader bowed leaving by the stairs without another word. Ahmi glanced at the king uncertainly before he scurried away behind him.
Everest shifted almost instantly changing into a solid white creature almost twice the size of a tiger and nearly the same shape of one. It was much more muscular, and had huge, feathery, white wings.
"Stop," he heard snarled from a dark, shadowy corner behind his back.
The animal turned its sharp, black eyes around scouting the darkest shadows for others that could ambush him while one distracted him. The long wings on his back fluttered nervously, prepared to take flight if necessary.
"Everest Sinedien," a man whispered so very softly as he stepped into his eyesight more clearly. Everest felt his heart leap in excitement only to nearly falter in immediate alarm. It was Andy alright...and he looked pissed!
Everest's first reaction of happiness faded swiftly. He was unhappy to realize how much he had missed the powerful warrior. The cat crouched threateningly as it growled a harsh warning to prevent Andy from acting foolishly. Everest really did not wish to harm his once friend over a misunderstanding that he couldn't explain fully to anyone. Knowing Andy was psychic, the cat thought a question at him. Why have you come back? Why are you here?
Andy paused obviously reading much more than the question in his mind. "You know the answer to that," he stated simply. Everest felt an unexpected pit of rage at those words and he felt sorrow that Andy had not returned as a friend. "How could I when you hurt her? You nearly killed her, you son of a bitch!"
The cat looked out at Andy with the saddest, oldest eyes the seasoned warrior had ever seen. It was in his mind that Andy would never understand. That thought disappointed the creature thoroughly. Everest's usual nonchalance was gone in the debilitating wave of disappointment that he was feeling as he stared at Andy with those disconcerting eyes. The king realized long ago that he had severely missed Destiny, but he ached even worse at the loss of his friend, Andy. They had once been very close and the only true friend Everest could claim.
"It isn't so hard. Just explain it to me, Everest...Why would you do such a thing? What could she have possibly done to cause you to harm her like that?" Even in Andy's anger, Everest could sense a small desire to forgive him if he could come up with a good excuse. It nearly broke his heart, because he didn't have one.
The cat launched itself into the air over the side of the balcony. Andy raced up to the ledge in a furious rage at his abandonment. "Coward," he screamed up at him as he watched him disappear. Andy could have followed, but Everest was grateful he had not. He wasn't ready to have this discussion with him just yet. Perhaps, he thought, his one-time buddy was as shaken by their encounter as he was.
The animal flew away swiftly with regret in his heart. It was too late to explain. Andy was able to read in the minds of the staff and regular visitors how hateful Everest had been treating his queen these last twenty years. He would blame the very person he saw committing these horrid acts upon her...he would blame the king. In a uniquely strange fashion, he would be right. Yet Everest could not help himself from thinking that Andy would also be...terribly, irreparably...wrong, too.
The cat touched down on white sands that looked beige against his snow-white purity. Suddenly not liking the symbolism behind that thought, he sent his beast form violently away from him falling to the sand as a man once more.
The king sat up to watch the waves washing endlessly to shore. He was soon surprised when he discovered his face was damp. Thinking he was sitting to close to the powerful undulations of the surf, he wiped at it about to move back only to discover that he was crying. It was an alien sensation. His disbelief faded almost as swiftly as it had arisen. Then, he felt his frozen heart cracking in two.
"Oh, Gods...the worlds must be nearing their ends," Everest remarked in sarcastic humor. "I never cry...not anymore." He froze as he felt a movement in the calmness of his ordered mind creeping along at the edges of his thoughts like a thief or a murderer in a darkened alleyway.
The king could hear his own voice mocking him with evil laughter...calling him a weakling. "Maybe I am," Everest sighed in agreement. "I must be...Why else would I stand aside for you for so long?"
The laughter vanished like the ghost of a really bad nightmare leaving an uneasy wariness and fear in its wake. "Yeah, you make a mess...Why don't you come clean it up for once? Instead, you leave me to straighten it out for you, you cowardly wretch! You are too damn lazy to finish it..."
"Who are you talking to, my king..."
Hissing in a startled breath of air, Everest turned to see a half a dozen or more of the palace guards behind him scattered over the grassy rise that led to the beach. They looked angry as they watched him with furtive eyes.
"Are you well, my lord?" Everest recognized the hatred in the captain's heart. More than one of his subordinates was contemplating the death of a king as several approached him under the guise of protecting him from harm.
"I am fine. What are you doing outside of the palace? I came out to be alone...to think," the king growled angrily hoping to head off the uprising about to occur. The leader of the motley group frowned at him.
"You are in danger when you go outside all alone, sire."
"I was not in danger until you men arrived," Everest stated boldly in challenge.
The captain tensed knowing they had given away their intentions to the wary warrior losing the element of surprise they had counted on having. Seconds later, they were on him with swords drawn.
Everest leapt away shifting as he went letting his tiny body contort into a much larger one. Several behind the lead two were changing forms also. Everest had to run several yards down the beach to give his body time to make the necessary adjustments.
When he was ready to fight, the large cat turned around to face them roaring defiantly in aggressive anger. In the time it took to flap his wings, he had the leader's throat torn out to gape in the breeze. The droplets of blood spraying over him looked black in the shadows.
Two cats jumped on him. One scored a deep wound on him as he was twisting the other cat's neck. The satisfying sound of the bones breaking traveled up through his teeth. It caused the other, smaller cat to leap away in fright. Everest stood over the body covered in the blood of his first kill as three cats and a sword-bearing guard encircled him. Two more cats waited at the rise probably watching to be certain no one saw them murdering their employer.
The king roared a challenge at them fearlessly, daring them to attach him again. None of the foolish warriors looked anxious to be the next victim to feel his teeth piercing their skin. The two corpses lay as silent sentinels showing how quickly this could backfire upon the hunters.
When none moved in on him, he picked the man who looked the most prepared for his attack and leapt out at him swiftly. The sword flew jarred to the side by a well-placed side kick of one of his hind les as the little cat thrashed dying while the swordsman's guts hit the sand with a heavy thump. The gutted guard stumbled back from the fighting, but his eviscerated intestines were bleeding too badly for him to go very far away.
That left him with four angry, wary tiger-like creatures circling him with leathery black wings and multi-colored striped bodies. Everest curled his own feathery white wings as he stood arrogantly on the sand between two more corpses. His tail flipped almost in lazy amusement as he watched them calmly.
When none else moved to press an attack, Everest chose the man most likely to bolt in cowardice. The cat fell in a brilliant shower of blood staining the once pretty sand. Two more fell beside him and Everest paused just before he leapt at the last one standing. The cat rolled beneath him scoring his side as his head was twisted between powerful teeth with a resounding crunch.
The white beast stood panting. The bodies of his men scattered the beach around him. Everest was annoyed at the stickiness of the blood on his perfect, white pelt as it dried in the wind. The king decided to race into the crashing surf, playing for a while among the waves. He was completely unconcerned by the destruction he left lying in his wake.
Everest was nearly dry when he landed on the highest balcony of the palace some time later. The cat shook out its thick fur coat one last time stretching lazily to ease a small cramp caused by the wound on his shoulder. He changed back into his two-legged, quiet king body. Everest walked back down the stairs into the castle feeling less at peace the moment the cave-like gloom descended around him. The guard looked startled to see him, but he quickly hid his reaction.
"Your highness...you are as silent as a ghost! I didn't hear you coming down the stairs, sire," the man admitted snapping to instant attention.
"That is alright. I would hope you could catch someone else if they tried to get past you." The man looked worried, but nodded glancing up the stairs behind him warily. Everest couldn't decide if he was in on the attack or not, but the guard obviously knew others had gone up and never returned.
Everest refused to disturb Destiny at this hour hoping that Andy had chosen to go to her room. Instead, he entered his own vast bedroom. It was as dark and humid as he expected it to be, causing an involuntary shudder to ripple down his spine.
Everest wrinkled his nose at the sharp, bitter spice he smelled. He sighed. Telling the servants countless times to remove the sachets obviously wasn't working. The damn things messed up his keen sense of smell and caused intolerable migraines.
After hunting each one down, he pitched them out the window he opened to dissipate the scents. Everest rubbed his temple staying by the fresh air as a headache already started to take root between his eyes. The call chord for a servant thankfully didn't hang far away. He gave it a violent tug.